Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Starting the new season, and a recipe!

The school year is well underway and I haven't done a single post in here since before the summer holidays began. This year is different for me than any previous year. I have only one child home with me every day, and that is Lauren, my only girl. She turned three this summer, and she is amazing. Strong, both in body and spirit, and just a delight to have around. I have told more than one person recently that I feel like a bit of a fraud. Desperate house-mom? Not so much anymore. Yes, I am still staying home with my kids, but now there's only one here full time, and it feels so...dare I say it...easy. 

That is not to minimize in any way the challenges of being a stay-at-home mom. When I was home with just Cody, it was very hard, but he was much younger (under one), and much higher maintenance. Lauren is independent, and she doesn't get into trouble the way her brothers used to. People used to tell me, "It will get easier!", and it felt like the day would never come, but here I am. I feel strong now, once again, perhaps for the first time in ten years, since before I was pregnant with Cody. Lauren is now okay with a baby sitter, and that has opened a whole new world of opportunities for me. Not that I'm running all over the place now. In fact, I'm still home all day, most days. But tomorrow, for example, I have a baby sitter lined up and I'm going riding. Horseback riding, that is, for anyone who doesn't know me. 

Micah is in grade one this year, which means he is in school full time, every day. I worried about this transition for him, but he is handling it better than Jamie did last year. I'm thankful for that, because he is my most cuddly and clingy kid. 

And now the hockey season has begun, so we are now in for a whirlwind of a winter. All three of our boys are playing, on three different teams, in two different towns, so we will basically eat, sleep and breathe hockey for the next four or five months. I will be on a team too this year again, so that will be fun. 

And now it's ten o'clock at night and I just realized I don't have sufficient snacks for my boys' lunch kits tomorrow, so I have to rush to the kitchen and make some. Just for fun, here is my very simple, very fast recipe for what my kids now affectionately call "Healthy Drops". 

1/2 cup nut or seed butter of your choice (I love almond butter, but use peanut butter when we are out)
1/2 cup honey
1 cup oats
1/2 cup dried fruit (I use craisins)
* 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use these. Non-negotiable.)
* I also add 2-3 tablespoons of ground flax seeds, but that's not in the original recipe.

Melt nut butter and honey in a pot, stirring constantly. Add the chocolate chips next if you are using them, to melt them in. Then add the oats, the dried fruit, and the flaxseed. Once it's all mixed, drop by the spoonful onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. It should divide into 12 drops. Then pop the pan into the freezer for about 15 minutes to harden them enough to eat. I keep these frozen in a ziplock bag and they make a great snack mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Filling and satisfying! 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Introducing Tucker

I think it has been long enough now that I can do this post. Radar died on April 18th of this year. It was very hard on all of us, but especially Mike and I. Maybe it seems callous or insensitive, but I started searching for dogs and puppies in rescue online almost right away. It helped me to have something to focus on other than my own sadness. A couple of weeks after he died, we went to the local humane society intending to meet two specific puppies. One was in foster care, so we went to the shelter first. There, we met the female puppy we had been interested in. Only we just didn't connect with her. She was cute, but really bouncy, and neither of us (Mike and I, that is) really wanted her.

There were several puppies there, and a couple of them jumped all over the kids the whole time, but there was one we noticed that was a little older, and a lot quieter. Mike and I both got a feeling about him, but I tried to ignore it. He was six months old, and I thought the kids would be more excited about a younger puppy. Besides, we still had to go to the foster home to meet the other puppy we were interested in. So we took an application with us and headed to the foster home. There, we met a truly adorable little puppy.

There he is. Seriously, look at that face. He was very cute and was good with the kids. His foster "mom" said he was her favourite puppy she has ever fostered, and she has had a lot. He was already mostly potty trained, even though he was only 12 weeks old. (He is younger in this picture.) So the kids fell in love with him. All except for Micah. He wanted the quiet, older puppy from the shelter.

So we headed back to the shelter, and I was a basket case. Mike knew what puppy we should get, and it wasn't this little angel pictured above. Cody, Jamie and Lauren all wanted this one. Micah wanted the other, and I wanted them both. I was tortured. How could we leave this little guy behind when there was absolutely nothing wrong with him? I didn't want to admit it to Mike, but I felt the same thing he did about the other one. I knew he was right for us, and I knew God himself was directing us towards him. That may sound dramatic, but sometimes God's voice is very clear, and this was one of those times. 

I was sad because I knew this might be the last dog we would ever get, and for sure it would be the last one we would get when our kids were little and lived at home. I wanted them to have a little puppy. I wanted me to have a little puppy. Radar was four months old when we got him, and not at that cute, fuzzy puppy stage. I knew it would be a pain with potty training, but I wanted the cute stage. 

In the end, we chose the one from the shelter, though several of us still wanted both puppies. Agreeing on a name between six people was a long and drawn out process and it took at least a week. But we settled on Tucker. Here is a picture of our new family member.

He was terrified when we got him home, and he bonded with me immediately. It turns out, he's really scared of men. He wouldn't let Mike touch him, and it took weeks before he was comfortable with Mike. We were discouraged at first, but eventually it became something of a joke around here. It was like the movie 50 First Dates. Every morning, he would bark and growl when Mike got up, (and again when Mike got home from work) and by bedtime, he was friends with him again. Every day, we repeated the same process. We have had him two and a half months now, and he still barks and sometimes growls at Mike when he gets home, but we just laugh at him. We call him Captain Woof, which is the name Cody wanted to give him. 

Now that he's here, it's clear he is the perfect dog for our family. He is great with the kids, and he is super playful. He fetches, which Cody really wanted, and he doesn't run away, so we can now have him loose on our property with no worries. He is also a water dog, as it turns out, and finds water wherever he can to swim in, or just lay in. Our yard was flooded shortly after we got him, so he had a lot of fun with that. Here's another picture of our boy.

We don't know what kind of dog he is. Lab for sure, most likely shepherd too, and then...? He has brindle on his face and legs, and his tail curls over his back like a husky, so he could have any number of breeds in him. His fur is extremely soft, and he's a big cuddle bug. Also a chicken. He is afraid of everything, but we are working with him on that. He also steals food off the counters...especially butter. He ate half a pound of butter not long after we got him, which induced a terrible thirst. He woke me up at 4 a.m. in his desperation for water. 

He has settled in nicely now, and we couldn't be more happy with him. I have many stories I could tell about him, but this is getting long and I'm late feeding my crew lunch. Just wanted to give this update, seeing it is way overdue.

Monday, June 29, 2015

School's Out For the Summer!

It's official. My two oldest boys arrived home an hour ago from their last day of school this year. Of course they are already in party mode, begging for screen time "because it's the last day of school". I'm kind of a mean mom, so I have said no to anything of the sort until all the rooms in this house are cleaned. Don't worry, I know a lot of the cleaning is my job. I'm talking about the toys, papers, clothes and random dishes that have been left all over the house. Seriously, I went downstairs to get meat out of the freezer for supper and I was tripping over water bottles and tupperware cups. Yikes.

Mike has one more day of work on his countdown, which means I do too, because it means I have a whole day with all four kids at home and no Mike. Again. Hopefully they will be as excited as I am to get this place whipped into shape so we can enjoy our summer holidays. And two seconds ago, Cody said, "I'm bored, I don't know what to do." Guess it's going to be a long summer!

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Final Countdown

Today is the last day of classes for all three of my boys. Jamie and Cody will be going on a field trip on Monday, and Micah is completely done after today. There has been a countdown going here for quiet a while. For the boys, and for Mike, it has mainly been about how many days of school are left. My countdown is slightly different, and I suspect many moms may relate to this one.

For me, the countdown has been about how many school lunches I had left to pack. I don't know why, but packing school lunches is one of my worst tasks that I have to do almost daily. Mike has been laughing at me a bit as I have proclaimed daily how many lunches were left to pack this year. This morning, I packed my last three lunches. Yes, my two older boys have school on Monday, but being a field trip, they are going out for pizza and as far as I know, I don't even have to pack snacks. In fact, I might even get really rebellious and not even send water bottles, as I do every day.

Getting kids ready for school each morning is a short, but frenzied affair. For me, it starts at 6:50 a.m., when I not only have to be out of bed myself, but I also have to wake up two or three boys, depending on the day. Winters are the worst, because on top of making sure everybody is awake, fed, has used the bathroom, and making sure all backpacks are packed and ready to go, I also have to get them dressed in their winter gear, which takes extra time. But this would all be much easier if I wasn't busy packing three different lunches and three bottles of ice water at the same time. The process doesn't sound that difficult, except inevitably, at least one water bottle is missing, and at least one lunch kit is missing, and sometimes even a backpack is missing.

And speaking of packing lunches every day, I found out yesterday that my lunches are something of a running joke at school, at least in Cody's class. Apparently EVERYBODY knows that I pack the exact same boring lunch for him every single day. Even his teacher knows. Yesterday I threw in a surprise cookie and a surprise bag of chips; both items that rarely (or never, in the case of the chips) make it into their lunch bags. Cody gasped in surprise when he opened his lunch, and jaws were dropping all over the room. His teacher asked him what the deal was. He said to her, "You know how my mom packs the same boring lunch every single day?" And her response was, "Yes." Yes. She does know. Everybody knows. Should I cringe in embarrassment? No. I am a mom. Am I boring? Maybe. But if boring gets the job done, then I'm doing my job. Every mom knows, when you find food your kid is willing to eat, you stock up on that food and send it to school every day because that way you know your kid is actually eating, and not just giving their lunch away or throwing it in the garbage. Boring? Sure. Do I care? No. I have made it through another school year, this time packing an average of twelve to thirteen lunches a week, and none of my kids starved.

And now I'm done! For the next ten glorious weeks, I will not pack a single school lunch. My celebration is irrational, of course, because having all four of them home all day every day for ten and a half weeks will be far more difficult, but I'm not going to let that put a damper on my festive mood. Farewell school lunches. Farewell forty minutes of stress and craziness every weekday morning. Bring on the summer holidays!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Radar

Yes, I'm still here, and still doing desperate house-mom things. I know I have been gone a long time, and I wanted to post in here sooner, but in April, our beloved dog died, and I took an extensive break from writing anything at all. I knew I couldn't post in here without reporting our loss, and I just didn't want to cry anymore.

Radar was only nine years old, and he was the best dog ever. His death was sudden, and though we knew it was coming, we thought we had at least another year or two. We just weren't ready to say good-bye.

I have many things to report in here. Obviously after a few months off, I have accumulated a few stories. But today, I just wanted to explain about Radar. I'm not going to give details about his death. I just wanted to post a few pictures and say an official good bye on here.

Radar was a Humane Society dog. We went there looking for specific puppies, but when we met him, we kind of fell in love. He was very strange looking, because his ears were gigantic. He was four months old when we brought him home, the same age as Cody was. Here he is below, looking hilarious with his crazy ears.

As it turned out, Radar grew into his ears, though some might debate that. To me, he grew into the most beautiful dog, and was the closest thing to a purebred German Shepherd I could have asked for. Obviously he wasn't purebred, but we never saw anything else in him. I wanted a German Shepherd my whole life, and he was my birthday present from Mike. I remember walking him down our road feeling overwhelmed at how beautiful he was, and how blessed I was to have my dream dog. 

He was smart, and so gentle. He was amazing with our kids. He never did anything bad...or at least, hardly ever. His only real flaw was that he barked a lot. He barked at everything outside. It was annoying at times, but he also kept the yard clear of wildlife. And he was smart about it too. When coyotes howled, he would trot in a large circle around the house, with his hair standing on end, but he never went after them. Often he would carry a stick or some other item in his mouth, as if saying to them, "Look. I have a stick. Don't mess with me." We found it hilarious. Mike always did Radar's voice and talked for him. We laughed a lot.

His tail was huge too, and everywhere he went, we would hear the rhythmic sound of it slapping against things. It made us smile every time. 

I could go on and on. I loved him so much, and even now I'm tearing up yet again, even though it has been almost ten weeks since he died. I will never forget him, and I will always miss him. We all will. Except for possibly Lauren. She doesn't really get it. She just asks, "Where's Radar? Is he at Jesus?" and I try not to cry. And I fail. Radar was my first dog. He changed us. Somebody told me pets leave paw prints on our hearts. Radar did just that. Good bye, sweet puppy. I will love you forever.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Day 7: The Stalker

I made it through today. I had two boys in school, and two kids at home. I am definitely sick, though so far it is bearable. Lauren had a relapse today and seems much sicker again. She is crying periodically from her bed now. Just to add to the fun, the cat also seems to be sick, in such a way that she is locked in the bathroom for the night. Maybe this will spare the carpets and the furniture, but she could also howl all night. Lauren is crying even now, but there is nothing I can do for her. It's a horrible, helpless feeling. I have heard some mothers swear by putting Vick's Vapo rub on the bottom of their kids' feet and then putting socks on over them, for the night. They say it works. I have no idea how that's possible, but hey, what have I got to lose? Only Lauren wouldn't let me. The mere suggestion had her in tears and very upset, so I had to leave it. I wonder if her throat hurts, like mine does. Having sick kids is the worst.

The good news is, Mike is on his way home. I have been cyber-stalking him for hours now, starting at about 3 p.m. when he was boarding his flight. I watched the airport's website for updates on departure times, and then switched to his destination airport to stalk the landing. Now that he is safely on the ground, he has been on the road for nearly three hours now. I have been stalking his iPhone. Seriously, Find iPhone might be the greatest app ever. I know I'm like a psycho wife doing this, but in all fairness, I did warn him to make sure he had his battery fully charged, and I was very up front with my intention to stalk him until he arrived home safely.

However, it will be likely over an hour before he gets here yet, maybe even longer. That will be midnight or later, and given my extreme level of fatigue, I am thinking I will sign off for now. I made it through seven days of single motherhood, but wow. I hope I never have to do it again. Goodnight, all.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Day 5 and Day 6: Winter rears her ugly head.

Let me start by saying, winter is not ugly. Not physically, anyway. But yesterday, we got a lot of snow, and a lot of wind, and long story short, I got my wish and we didn't go to hockey practice. The practice was still on, but it was optional. I probably could have made it there, because I drive a very large truck with four wheel drive (words I NEVER thought I would ever say), but the roads were heavy with snow, and frankly, it just wasn't worth it.

I went to bed last night, half hoping today they would cancel school. This is Manitoba. While we do get some snow days throughout our brutal winters, we also go about our normal lives in some ridiculous conditions. I didn't think a snow day was realistic. After all, the highways would likely be cleared overnight.

As it turned out, the back roads were terrible this morning, and as a result, the buses couldn't run. In our school division, if the buses don't run, school is off. Sounds crazy if you live in the city, but out here, most kids come from out of town, so the school would be pretty empty if the buses didn't come.

When the bus driver called me to tell me, my first feeling was great relief. It was 6:50 a.m. and I was just preparing to go make breakfasts and lunches for all three boys. Now I didn't have to. Not only that, but I didn't have to crack the whip over them to get them all in their winter gear so we could plow through the snow on the driveway to get them to the bus by 7:30. That small 40 minutes of relief wasn't worth it. This has been the worst of our six days so far, and I am the biggest ogre imaginable. It would probably be best if someone came over with a straight jacket and some sedatives and put me out of my misery. I hope we make it to day seven.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Day Four: Everything comes to a screeching halt...

Today was a big day. Every minute was scheduled, beginning at 6:30 a.m. when my alarm would go off, and not ending until after 10 p.m. I was dreading it, but determined to make it through. The plan was, get the boys up by 6:50 a.m., feed them, get them dressed, make their lunches, pack their bags, fill their water bottles, get them in their winter gear, and walk them to the bus for 7:30. That part of the plan went fairly well. After that, I had a workout scheduled, as well as various essential cleaning jobs, to be followed by an early lunch, and then we were to drive to my sister's place, about 45 minutes away, to see Maybelline. She's the horse, for anyone who is new around here. Maybelline was scheduled for a pedicure at 1 p.m. (She was getting her hooves trimmed.) We were to return home on time for me to shower, and then feed the kids an early supper and bath them so they'd be ready for bed when the baby sitters arrived at 6 p.m. Then I was to go back to the same area where my sister lives for bible study.

Remember how last night I said Lauren was fussing? Lauren never fusses. I knew something was wrong, but when I checked on her, her blankets weren't on her, so I thought maybe she was just cold. At 6 a.m., she woke up saying she needed to use the bathroom. When I picked her up to put her on the toilet, her body was burning hot. I knew then we were in trouble. Long story short, Lauren is sick, and I had to cancel everything. Maybelline still got her feet done, but I couldn't be there to help, which left my sister to handle ten horses by herself. She has a one year old and a four year old (of the human variety), so I felt terrible, but I couldn't drag Lauren out in the cold when she felt so awful. Likewise, I couldn't leave her with baby sitters, for her sake and theirs.

The kids were all mad at me for cancelling the baby sitters. Apparently they are all quite anxious to get rid of me. I really could have used an outing this evening, but at the same time, I think I was in desperate need of rest today. Well, rest I did. I did a workout and got my shower in, but I did very little else. I folded two baskets of laundry, and did dishes, and that's about it. It was a very lazy day.

I did have a startling realization, however. Saturday is Valentine's Day. I already knew that, but I forgot that means I am supposed to buy valentines for all three boys to give out to every single kid in their classes. I hate Valentine's Day for that reason. It literally takes hours upon hours to get each valentine written out, but this year, that's the least of my problems. I haven't bought any yet. I dug through my leftover supply, and I found 37, which is pretty decent. But I need around 60 to be safe, so now I have to figure out what to do. I don't really want to drag a sick kid to the store, especially when I would have to drive a minimum of 20 minutes on the highway to get there. I am thinking of photocopying sheets of the ones I have and using those, but I have been too gutless to give it a try. Tomorrow is the only day I have to do Micah's, as his party is on Thursday. I have until Friday for the other two.

Anyway, I wish I could say my supermom streak was ongoing, but today it ended. My grand plans to have the house in perfect condition when Mike returns have been put on the back burner. Tomorrow is another hockey day, which means craziness until about 8 p.m. Oh how I would love to skip hockey.

At any rate, all four kids are now in bed, though two are coughing. Now is my time to relax and breathe a little. I'm so tired, I might go to bed by 9 p.m. Only four more days until I have backup again. Hurry home, Mike.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Day Three: The Mitt Episode

Today started early, with my alarm going at 6:30 a.m. Cody was already up, and the other three were up by 7. I fed them all and got Jamie and Micah's hockey equipment ready, and once everyone was dressed and we were packed, we were off to the next town at 8:15 for our game, which started at 9:30. Our family has a reputation for always being late, which I hate. This morning, we were the first ones there. We were so early, there weren't even any lights on in the dressing room.

Micah fought me all morning, stating that he hates hockey and that he would not be playing today. I had to come up with an analogy for him on the way there, to inspire him. I told the kids about greyhound races, and how the dogs chase a fake rabbit around a track, (though I am no expert on that, and maybe it's different now) and I compared the puck to the rabbit. Then, in a fit of inspiration, I thought of Nabbit, a character from Super Mario Brothers. If you're not familiar with the game, Nabbit is a pesky rabbit that steals treasures from one of the little mushroom guys. When Nabbit shows up on a level, your job, as Mario, is to chase him down as fast as you can and catch him.

So. Today, I told Micah the puck was Nabbit, and he was Mario. Well, he certainly went after the puck. He even touched it. Once. I doubt I sparked any kind of love for hockey, but at least he tried.

We made it through the game, and Jamie even scored his signature hat trick, despite minimal effort for the first two thirds of the game. Even still, the end score was somewhere way over 20 for the other team, and six for us. Ah. Just like every single game we have played this season.

After hockey, we came home and I fed them all lunch, and then did as much cleaning as I could cram in before having to leave again to drop Cody off at a birthday party for the afternoon. We had less than an hour and a half back at home again before going back to pick him up. Then I made supper, fed the crew, bathed the crew, cleaned Jamie and Micah's room with them, cleaned Lauren's room without her, and tucked all three of them in. Cody was last, but he is easy.

In order to make tomorrow easier for myself, I got all three backpacks out, lunch kits on the counter, wax paper ready to wrap sandwiches in the morning, snacks sitting ready to be packed, and then I laid out all their outdoor clothing. Except Micah's mitts were missing.

Micah's mitts are notorious for disappearing. We ordered them online in the fall, just before the cold weather hit. They are good mitts. The first time he lost one was a few weeks after we got them. We had gone away for the weekend, and came home seemingly without one of the mitts. Actually, Lauren came home with only one mitt too, and hers were also brand new, good quality mitts. We searched the truck multiple times and came up empty. We contacted the people we were with and nobody had seen the missing mitts. So, a week or so later, we ordered another set for Micah exactly the same. Lauren had another set, so she was okay. A few days after we ordered them, I found both mitts. In the truck. Don't judge me, they were extremely well-hidden!!!

We sent the new set back, so we didn't have to pay for them, thankfully. But last weekend, we went into the city again and stayed at a hotel. Guess who was missing a mitt when we got home? Yes, Micah. Same drill. Searched multiple times, and no mitt. I dug out an old ratty pair for him, which he used all last week. But today, when we got home from hockey, I told the kids there would be a special prize for whoever could find the mitt in the truck. I just knew it had to be in there. Sure enough, Cody found it. So, he got chocolate chips. Exciting, right? And because I suck at giving prizes, I gave them all chocolate chips. But I gave Cody more, so it was still a prize, right?

So here I am, it's night time, and I'm trying to be organized and get their stuff ready so we don't miss the bus in the morning, and now not one, but both of Micah's mitts are missing. Unbelievable. I checked really well in the house, but I just knew they were in the truck. The same truck that swallows mitts without a trace. Now I had to go outside and find them, because I knew there would never be enough time in the morning to search and still make it to the bus on time. So, I bundled up, because it's freezing outside! (And I live in Manitoba, so please take that quite literally. Okay, okay, it's not that cold. But -21 with the wind chill feels too cold to be running out to the truck in the dark.)

That brings me to the other part. Dark. It is very, very dark out there. The moon seems to have disappeared. Or maybe it's just cloudy. I didn't take the time to notice. We live far away from civilization, so there are no lights around. When it's dark out, it's very, very dark. I turned the outside light on, which lit the deck quite nicely. But once I rounded the corner, it was pitch black. I mean, I couldn't see anything. I took a tiny LED flashlight with me.

Can I just say I watched a news interview the other day with a man who was very recently attacked by a cougar and survived to tell the tale? Living in the country, surrounded by trees, with no civilization visible or in walking distance has its perks. In truth, I love it. But it took some getting used to. I used to be quite creeped out, not being able to see what was out there. Anything could be watching me from the bushes. For the most part, I have gotten used to it. But sometimes, at night, if I have to be outside by myself (other than on the deck, which is nice and high up), I get scared. Always, it's the thought of cougars. We have tons of coyotes here, and many times have seen them near the house, but they don't really scare me. Cougars do. The good news is, I have never heard of a cougar in this area. But there is one within about 20 miles or so, and they do travel a lot.

So, sad as it is, this grown woman rounded the corner of the deck into pitch blackness, and felt scared. I turned on my pitiful flashlight and took one step down the staircase into the darkness below, and my flashlight flickered. What the... I shook it, and it was bright again. Phew! Another two steps down, and it flickered right off. A violent thrashing of the flashlight ensued. I smacked that thing until it came back on, and then I hurried to the truck. Fortunately, when I opened the truck door, the interior lights came on. Sure enough, the mitts were sitting on the back seat. I was so thankful they were not well-hidden this time. I grabbed them, not unaware of the vulnerability of my back end, sticking out into the darkness behind me. I got out and slammed the door, my flashlight completely useless. I ran like a crazy person to the stairs and ascended them much faster than I ever have before. I did not stop running when I got up on the deck. All I could think of was that the cougar could be right behind me. I burst in the door, and Cody stared at me. I held up the mitts, huffing and puffing. He commented on them. And then said, "Why were you running?"

What do you tell a child that asks you that? "Well, I was afraid I would get attacked by a cougar. Now go to bed. Sweet dreams!" I told him it was super dark out, and I got creeped out so I ran. Nice. I totally didn't validate his fear of the dark. Nope.

Anyway, now I'm safe in my bed, and the wayward mitts have been found. Everything is ready to go for the morning, so my job is done. Sort of. Lauren keeps fussing, which is a stark reminder that my job is never done. Either way, I'm soon off to bed. Goodnight.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Day 2: (a single motherhood mini-series)

Day two ran fairly smoothly. My only real plans were to clean, and to work out. We had an invitation to go see my sister ride in a horse show in town, but I wasn't sure we could handle it. And by "we", I mean "I". The kids all seemed to be feeling better, though Cody is still coughing a lot. Everyone slept in, at least a little bit, and the moods were improved over yesterday. I decided I was open to the horse show, and I canvassed the crew for opinions. Everyone was all for it. Okay! Now I had leverage.

The deal was, I will clean the hall, both bathrooms, the front entrance, the living room, the kitchen, the laundry room and Lauren's room. All I required is that Jamie and Micah clean their own room. If they did that, we would go to the show. For once, I was in a win-win situation. I love horses, and I love my sister, but the show was 40 minutes away, and it was snowing outside. I knew if we went, they would likely fight all the way there, and all the way back, and I was already exhausted. But I also knew we would all enjoy the horses, and I wouldn't have to cook supper, as we would be in town at that time.

The boys didn't clean their room. The whining and outright refusal to lift a finger was nothing short of epic, and I decided very early in the day that the horse show was a definite no. Part way through the day, I had had enough, and I had to stand in their room and (figuratively) crack the whip. I had to actually verbally instruct them with each item they needed to pick up off the floor. They just don't get it. And I confess, I have failed here as a mother, because I can't stand the battles, so I don't enforce the cleaning often enough. By the end of the day, the hall was clean, the front entrance was clean, the living room was clean, and the kitchen was improved.

I also cleaned the toilet in one bathroom. That was largely inspired by a longstanding tradition in this household. Every time, without fail, that Mike is away overnight, even if it's only for one night, somebody plugs the toilet. It's uncanny, so to speak. We have a stupid plunger. It's not normal. It's like an accordion thingy, that almost guarantees splashing. I hate plunging toilets, but thanks to my boys and their proficiency at plugging them while Mike is away, I have become adept at it. I fixed it, and cleaned it. I put everyone to bed early, and I even got to shower. Now it's only 9:30 and I feel like it's one in the morning. I worked hard all day, and tomorrow stars bright and early. We will leave the house by 8:15 for the next round of hockey adventures. Last night nobody got up in the night. Here's praying tonight is the same. Goodnight, all.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Day one on my own with four kids...

I've done temporary bouts of single motherhood before. When I say temporary, I mean a couple of days and nights. A few times, I have been on my own for a week or more, but this is my first time ever alone for seven straight days with all four kids. Here is what I was expecting of day one:

Day one is always the best day. I am pumped up, inspired. I can do this! I'm the mom! You get the idea. I do a bunch of inspired cleaning, cook great meals, bedtime is a militant but loving affair. Everything goes smoothly. Today looked nothing like that.

All three of my boys have been dealing with sickness this week. Yesterday, the oldest two stayed home from school, sick, and the third had no school, and the fourth doesn't go to school, so I had all four home yesterday. Well, I could hear Cody coughing all night the night before, and at 5 a.m. he burst into my room and shouted, "I feel barfy!" That brought on the usual instant dread from me, and I sent him back to bed with a pail. He didn't throw up, and his stomach was better by morning, but apparently he was awake at 4 a.m. and never slept again. Let me just say, his mood the rest of the day reflected his poor sleep with great accuracy. Jamie was coughing too, and Micah had the fever earlier in the week, but had an ear problem yesterday. So, today was a day off school, and all of my boys were in fantastic moods. Wait, no, that is completely sarcastic. The fighting I witnessed today, both with my eyes and with my ears, was non-stop. Horrible, horrible fighting. I was completely fried within the first hour of the day. Lauren was mostly a delight, as usual, though she had her share of two-year-old meltdowns. In fact, while I did my workout, she literally stood facing me, with her mouth wide open, screaming repeatedly as loud as she could. Why? Because I offered her a sippy cup of water, and she didn't want any water. Well. Excuse me!!!!

True to form, I did work extra hard today, and it was a long day indeed. I have been working almost non-stop for the last three days to clean up our horrible basement, and this morning, I finished the job. Wow. It looks amazing down there! After that, I came up and fed the kids lunch. Then it was time for my workout, which was supposed to be followed by a shower. Except I didn't get to shower, because after the workout, I had to run outside and uncover the cord that was by the tractor in case I have to plug the tractor in some time this week.

Which brings me to a rabbit trail. We have lived here nine years. I don't know how to run the tractor. So, Mike is gone a whole week, and guess what the forecast looks like? Snow. Snow, snow, snow. Okay. We live in the boonies here, and our driveway is not a city driveway. It's long. I can't shovel it. So if the snow gets deep enough, I'm trapped here, unless I can wrangle a brother-in-law to come and plough the driveway. At least I drive a big truck with four wheel drive. Hopefully the snow won't get deep enough to trap the truck in.

Anyway, the cord was stuck in the snow, and it took me forever to uncover the part that plugs into the tractor. But I found it, and hung it over the tire, so it's available if I need it, and it won't get buried under future snowfalls. While I was outside, I did a super quick shovel job of the back deck staircase, so it wouldn't get out of hand this week. All in all, I was probably outside for about fifteen minutes. During that time, all "you-know-what" broke loose in the house. Apparently, one of the kids winged a pair of binoculars into the TV and another one was swearing. Swearing. We are a non-swearing household. I could go on and on about this. I was extremely distraught by this point. They also took the liberty of watching TV, which they knew they were not allowed. It was clear I could not leave them unattended for even ten minutes, so my shower was no longer an option. Instead, I baked oatmeal cookies for them, because I had no other snack, and by the time they were ready, it was time for supper. We eat supper at 4 p.m. on Fridays, because otherwise they don't eat until 8 or 9 p.m.

Fridays are hockey nights. I was to be at the rink by 4:30 p.m. with all of them, and with three sets of equipment. Jamie and Micah had practice from 5-6 p.m. I wasn't convinced they were even well enough to be on the ice. Micah did snow angels and flopped around like a fish out of water. That is literally what he looked like. By the time they were done, I wanted to go home, but Cody had a game starting at 6:30 p.m.

The game was fantastic. (Sarcasm again.) His team is a young novice team, and as such, they are one of the worst in the league. They get slaughtered almost every single game. Tonight was no exception. The final score was 14-5 for the other team. The difference tonight was the classy parents on the other team. (Oops. Sarcasm again.) Hockey parents have a choice between sitting inside the warm area, where you can't cheer loudly for the team, or freezing their hind ends out on the bleachers in the cold part, where you can yell for your team. (I'm talking encouraging yells here.) I always go to the cold part. The hockey moms on our team are loud and fun, and we always make the most noise cheering and laughing, though we are told the kids can barely hear us.

Tonight, there were only five of us out there cheering on our kids. The other team had approximately thirty. Maybe twenty. I don't know. It was a big crowd, but that wasn't what set them apart. They brought air horns. Air horns. And cow bells. And every time their kids scored, they raised the roof. Well, for the first three or four goals, it was somewhat understandable. But on the fourteenth goal,  they were still blowing multiple air horns and jingling those dang cow bells, and our kids were so discouraged. They scared Micah really badly with their noise makers as he was walking by, and then they laughed at him, which brought him to me in tears. (He is five.) I was very annoyed by this point. But then Lauren said she needed to go to the bathroom, and as I her walked past them, a dad blew the air horn right when we were right in front of him. There was no goal or related action in the game at that moment. Just an obnoxious man, scaring my two year old.

Honestly, maybe I overreacted, but I was so angry. I was only a hair away from climbing the bleachers and telling them that our kids have been slaughtered every single game, and now they were rubbing it in their faces. I started to understand why fights sometimes break out between hockey parents. It's almost funny, how angry I was. All of us were somewhat disgusted with the other team's parents. I don't know. Maybe that's normal behaviour at a game for kids ages 8 and under. Seems a little over the top to me. If it were a close game, I would understand a little more. We have joked about bringing air horns to our games, but we have never done it. And if we were winning every game by a landslide, I wouldn't even joke about it.

Anyway, when all was said and done, I didn't get the kids home until 8:40, and they were not all settled in bed until 9:15. I am exhausted, and my throat is scratching from yelling at the top of my lungs through the whole game. I don't have a loud voice, and I'm certainly no match for an air horn.

Now, I face my first of seven nights without Mike. I am praying nobody is up with nightmares, or loses a soother in the middle of the night, or bursts into my room just before throwing up. Tomorrow is a free day, and I think we all need it. My plan is to get the upstairs as clean as the downstairs. It might take another three days, but it's a worthy goal.

And now I will rest my aching feet, and try not to worry about Mike as he travels. I apologize for the long-winded and very disjointed post. I think I just needed to get that one out. Goodnight everyone.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Easy as Pie?

Recently, I told Mike this stay-at-home-mom thing is easy. Feel free to laugh uproariously. Honestly, I don't know what came over me. I've done a lot of reflecting back on when my three boys were all so little, and things were insanely hard. All the time. Now, things have eased up. I don't have a three year old, a two year old and a less than one year old all at once. Comparatively speaking, this does seem easy. Sometimes.

I think maybe I feel guilty that it's not as hard as it used to be. It makes me feel like I'm not doing anything here at home. Maybe I was delusional because over Christmas I got used to Mike being around to help and I forgot what it's like when he's back at work. Whatever the reason for my temporary loss of perspective, rest assured, I have been set straight.

Yesterday, when the boys got home from school, Jamie was not himself. He refused to get changed to go to hockey, and even said hockey was boring and he didn't want to go. Jamie loves hockey. My first thought was, "Uh oh. Maybe he's sick." But he was showing no symptoms of anything other than exhaustion. I figured that was par for the course, being the second day back at school after two weeks off. (Which, by the way, consisted of a bad stomach bug, that hit us Christmas night. But that's another story. More like a sequel, really, seeing it was the fifth consecutive year.) Well, I forced him to go, seeing they were having pictures done last night, and sure enough, once he hit the ice, his little grin came back and he enjoyed it, as usual.

On the way home, he refused to admit he had fun, and his attitude got really raunchy. We got him to bed at a decent hour, and I hoped he'd be fine for school today. But at 4 a.m., I heard him yelling for me. Jamie doesn't yell for me in the night unless he's sick. I went into his room and he said his stomach hurt really badly. I asked him if he needed to go to the bathroom and he said no. I asked him if he felt barfy and he said no. So I made him go to the bathroom, and he never returned to his room. He was in agony for a long time in the bathroom and I got really scared. I looked up symptoms of appendicitis, and he had most of them. I ended up making a bed for him out of towels and he slept on the bathroom floor. While I got the other two ready for school this morning, Jamie was hollering from the bathroom, throwing up and the whole works.

Today, I am exhausted, though relieved because Jamie is doing much better and definitely doesn't have appendicitis. But I certainly got a good reminder of the challenges of my "job". In a few weeks, Mike is going away for about six days. I doubt I will tell him how easy it was when he gets home again.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Back To School Glitches

Today is the first day of school after our Christmas break, and though some people think I am excited to have a break from my kids again, in truth, I have been dreading this day. I miss my boys when they are at school. I worry about them. I worry that they won't drink enough water and they'll get a headache. I worry that they will be overtired and come home sick. I worry that they will miss home and be sad. And today, I worry about the weather, because we are under an extreme cold warning right now. My boys have a long bus ride to school, almost an hour, and one of them is in the habit of not wearing his mitts or his hat.

I was hoping it would be cold enough to shut down the schools today. That's the kind of thing that can happen when you are in a small town school, because most students take the bus to get there. But it didn't happen, and so I got all three lunches made, all three water bottles filled, all three backpacks packed, and all three boys dressed and out the door onto the bus this morning. Then, I started to relax. A day at home with just Lauren is nice. Quiet. Dare I say it? Easy. I will accomplish things.

The boys were on the bus at 7:30, as usual, and then I got into my bed with a book and read for an hour in peace and quiet. That's when I got the text. It was from their bus driver. Jamie left his backpack in the truck when Mike dropped them off at the bus this morning.

Okay, that's not good. He won't have his planner today, but that's not a big deal. He's wearing all of his winter gear, so we're good there too. But his lunch and his water bottle are in there. On a normal day, I would make another lunch and drive it to the school. But today, Mike took the truck to work, and all the car seats are in there. I can't take Lauren in the car with no car seat. She's only two. If she were five, I'd do it. I know, that's really evil, right? But I'd stay on the back gravel roads and drive super slow. But she's two, so I can't. Plus, it's really cold out there, and if we were to have car trouble, it could be scary.

I thought about calling my father-in-law, because he's amazing with stuff like that, but I knew he was supposed to be traveling some time today already, and I didn't want to bother him with another trip. But then something amazing happened. The bus driver offered to make Jamie a lunch and take it to him. I can't begin to describe what a great bus driver our boys have, but just from this alone, you get the idea. I always feel safe knowing my boys are with her. She keeps them in line and she cares about them. She remembers when their birthdays are and she jokes with them, and she treats them so well.

I thought about saying no, telling her she didn't have to do that, but then I realized this is a blessing, straight from God. There is no reason for guilt, no reason to refuse a gift. So she made him a lunch, and will take it to him at the school. That's one thing about life in or around a small community.

Now I'm sitting in my cozy house, with my adorable little girl, and I am at peace. I'm not worried about my kids, because they are in good hands. I'm feeling blessed. Happy New Year, everyone.